Category Archives: Jesus Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 558 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
09/01/16 – 558 – Jesus’ Return To Israel

Yesterday we read about Simeon, an old man in the temple who asked only one thing of God – the he be allowed to see the promised Messiah before he died. The moment he saw Jesus, the Spirit spoke to him and he knew who Jesus was, and declared it readily. He went on to dedicate and bless the baby – and make a pretty good prediction about Him as well.

Luke 2:31-38
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

We aren’t quite sure who Anna was either except for what the text says here. I’m not even sure whether she was moved by the Spirit herself or whether she was just believing in what Simeon had said. Either way, she accepted and believed – and began to tell others. You could probably call her the first evangelist!

So why is Luke bothering to give us all this background on Simeon and Anna? I believe he wants us to see that God’s message as much as God’s message is given to the whole world, it is only received by those that are ready and willing to accept it. For example, I can broadcast a radio signal around the globe, but only those people with their radios turned on and tuned to the right frequency will be able to hear my message.

How many of us have our radios turned on, even tuned to the right station, but have so much noise in our lives that we couldn’t hear God if He stepped on our house? By noise I mean real noise – constant music, TV, video games, cell phones, social media etc, plus busy-ness – just always caught up in a hundred little things that really mean nothing in the grand scheme, but make us somehow feel important.

We need to stop. We need to stop being afraid of the quiet, and just stop the noise. Take time to talk to God, and listen for His voice. He has already spoken to you in many ways. He has spoken through scripture. He has spoken through pastors, other Christian (wise) counsel. Just remember the Bible is always the acid test. Any time you think God is telling you something, check to see if it conflicts with the text. If it does, the voice you’re hearing is not from God. Run from it.

It will be tempting. It will sound nice. It will probably be something you want to do anyway, Run from it anyway. You will thank yourself (and God) later. I promise. Try it now. Turn off the TV and the phone. Ask God about the big questions in your life right now. Job? Relationship? Find the relevant scripture. If you need help, call your pastor, or contact me. Then, stay tuned.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 556 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/30/16 – 556 – Jesus’ Return To Israel

Luke 2:41-52
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

No, his parents weren’t neglectful, as if often the first accusation today when reading this portion of the story. It was actually very common in those days when traveling a long distance in a caravan of sorts, with many relatives and friends, for children of his age and even younger to go off and spend time with cousins and friends that they probably wouldn’t see again for a long time., and yes, it may have been for days at a time. So naturally Joseph & Mary didn’t worry until they began looking for Him and saw no sign of Him at all.

When they realized he was missing, they hightailed it back to Jerusalem as fast as they could. There they spent 3 days retracing their steps, trying to find him. When they found Him, Mary tried to rebuke Him, but He ended up scolding her instead! Why? Because she had been with Him for 12 years, and that should have been long enough to have known Him and what kind of person He was. She should have at least had some idea of the depth of His knowledge of scripture. After all, he was teaching the teachers! And they were “astonished

But there is the lesson for us today as well, I think. We who have been with Him for any good length of time should know Him deeply. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that someone ‘gets saved’, they are excited and ‘gung ho’ for a time, but when the warm fuzzies wear off they tend to just coast, and find ways to justify it.

We may have known Him for decades, but haven’t noticed His absence in our lives for decades. We fool ourselves into thinking that we’re safe, somehow immune. But really, none of us are. The fact is, the safer we think we are, the more vulnerable we are in reality. We have to constantly work on our relationship with Christ. Read the Word. Read His teachings. Pray – talk to Him. Pray – listen to Him.

Let’s make our prayer today for that – a restart, a self-check of sorts. Ask Him to examine you. Ask His Spirit to convict you of anything that is keeping the 2 of you apart. With His help, cleanse yourself and start your relationship with Him all over again. Make everything new if that’s what it takes!

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 555 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/29/16 – 555 – Jesus’ Return To Israel

Matt 2:19-23
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
NIV

And here I always thought it was because He attended the Galilee First Church of the Nazarene! Oh well, it mad perfect sense to me .

Ok, I’ll get serious. You may notice there are 2 themes in this story. One is that of God speaking to Joseph through dreams. In fact, this seems to be the only way He did speak to Joseph – ever. The other is the fulfillment of prophecy. Let’s look at the first one first. I talk to many people who say that they simply don’t think that God still speaks to people now the way He did then – through dreams, visions, burning bushes etc. (mostly dreams and visions – the burning bush thing only happened once as far as I know). Because of this, they don’t think God speaks to us at all. Take a moment – what do you think?

But I disagree. I think that God speaks to us just as much if not more than He did then, in the same ways and others. Yes, I think He still speaks through dreams and visions, but we’ve become so cynical as a people that even when someone comes to a group of believers claiming to have had a vision or dream from God, they are thought to be in need of medication and mental health care. We might believe only after every other possibility has been ruled out. If Joseph had acted that way our story would have turned out quite differently!

The second running theme – the fulfillment of prophesy (or more accurately, the pointing out of the fulfillment of prophecy) is just there, I believe, for our benefit. We would most likely miss it otherwise, and it’s important. For all the claims that Jesus orchestrated His own life and even aspects of His death to fit prophesies in scripture, no one can claim that He orchestrated His own birth without at the same time admitting the He is God.

People would still find ways to use His time in Egypt against Him, though. We don’t know how long the family was there, but we have the story of His teaching in the temple when He was about 12, so we know they were back in Israel before that. Because he was teaching, He also had received some very good rabbinical education before that time as well, which in all likelihood would have been obtained in Israel, not in Egypt where the Hebrew God was not worshipped. This training would normally have begun at age 5 or 6.

Those that try to use the Egyptian experience against Him have said that during His time there he was trained by Egyptian magicians in the art of necromancy, This is the practice of supposedly raising the dead, usually for the purpose of foretelling the future. Some claim that he studied this dark art under Egyptian magicians and used it trick people into thinking that he raised people from the dead (like Lazarus).

However, those ‘raised’ by necromancers were more like the people in drug-induced states like the victims of voodoo, or they were not raised bodily, only spiritually (as in a séance). They never walked out of a grave after beginning to decompose and returned to a normal life, as Lazus did, and they never raised themselves!

I’ll have more to say on this story tomorrow. For today, Let’s just say thanks to a God Who still speaks to us today even as He spoke to people thousands of years ago – and then some.

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grownups – 553 – Jesus’ Return to Israel

Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
08/27/16 – 553 – Jesus’ Return

No, not that return – the first one! I thought that since we’ve been so long in the Old Testament, you may have been wondering when and if Jesus was ever going to come back into the stories. Actually, the entire Bible points to Him.

If you’re reading it right, you should see that everything in the Old Testament points to His coming to earth, the gospels tell of His time here as a man, and the rest of the New Testament either point back to His life and teachings while He was walking this earth, or forward to his coming again. He is throughout the text, and you cannot read it without becoming immersed in Him.

But I thought it would be nice to move into the New Testament for a while anyway. We’ll start with Matthew because hey, why not? – His book is first in line. Besides, he’s the only one who really talks about this event.

Matt 2:13-23
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

This event, which has come to be known as ‘The Massacre of the Innocents’, has come under fire in recent years, like many of Christianity’s belief’s. The problem is that the Roman historian Josephus, who is considered the most reliable non-Christian source of factual history of that day, never mentions a word about it! This is admittedly remarkable, especially in light of the way he reported so many of Herod’s other transgressions – including the execution of 3 of his own sons.

In fact, it’s not found in any written work for about 4 centuries, when Byzantine liturgical work says that about 14,000 were killed. There was another Syrian list that claimed 64,000, and a Coptic work that claimed 144,000! You’d think with numbers like that, Josephus would have at least mentioned it.

More realistic numbers put the population of Bethlehem at an estimated 1000 people at the time, so the probable number of boys 2 years old or less would have been around 6-20, and maybe another 12 in the surrounding areas. With killing so rampant, Josephus could well have ignored it in his own reporting if this were true.

I know that sounds terrible, but think about it. Have you watched the news here lately? We’ve had 463 murders in Chicago this year already – we’ve almost matched the total number of shooting victims from last year with only 2/3 of the year behind us! Another way to look at it is this: today is Day # 240 of the year, so we’re averaging almost 2 murders/day in Chicago alone – not counting surrounding areas, and with 2739 shootings well over an average of 10 shootings/day.

Here’s the question. Unless one of these affected you personally, are you even shocked by it anymore? How many of these even get their names mentioned on the news, unless the circumstances of the death were unusual or sensational – like a police shooting.

The real question for us as Christians is this: do you believe the text? Do you believe that the prophecy was fulfilled here through Herod? If so, what are you willing to do to defend your faith? Study? Argue? Debate? Surrender your entire life?

Let’s make that our prayer for today. Ask for that ‘Blessed Assurance’ that His Word truly is His Word – and the He work in us to remove any and all lingering doubt. And even if a bit pops up here and there, pray for the courage to move forward, to stay obedient anyway. Be blessed.